'Superhuman' Jason Day keeps vertigo at bay to grab four-way share of US Open lead
Caddie calls the Australian's two-under 68 the 'greatest round of golf I’ve ever watched'
Jason Day wrote his name into US Open folklore on Saturday, grabbing a share of the third-round lead on a punishing Chambers Bay layout that had literally brought the Australian to his knees a day earlier.
Even though Day’s round will be long remembered, there is still another chapter to be written in the 115th US Open with Americans Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson and South African Brendan Grace all level on four-under 206 going into Sunday.
Day had sent a fright through the galleries on Friday when he suddenly collapsed on his final hole, suffering from vertigo, and had to be helped from the course by medics but only after he had grimly completed his round and collapsed again.
Day’s caddie, Colin Swatton, said he had reservations about his charge playing, then called it “a superhuman effort” and the “greatest round of golf I’ve ever watched”.
“I said to him ‘They might make a movie about that round.’ It was pretty impressive. It was up there with Tiger Woods playing with a broken leg and winning the US Open.”
Sitting just three shots off the lead overnight and in contention for a first major, there was worry the world number 10 would have to withdraw but Day dug deep into his reserves and on Saturday was back on the first tee.
Looking drained, Day came off the ropes and hit back at Chambers Bay with a two-under 68 highlighted by a brilliant back nine that featured five birdies, including three over his four closing holes.
His storming finish earned him a share of the lead and a rousing standing ovation from the 6,000 fans packed into the 18th hole grandstands.
Day took only a moment to savour the applause as he gingerly made his way to a waiting van where he slumped into the back seat with closed eyes and laid his head on the back rest.
“Last year I didn’t play the round after I had vertigo and this one was worse,” a fatigured Day said.
"The goal was just to go through today and see how it goes.
"I didn’t feel that great coming out early ... I felt pretty groggy on the front nine just from the drugs that I had in my system, then kind of flushed that out on the back nine.
"But then ... the vertigo came back a little bit on the 13th tee box, and I felt nauseous all day. I started shaking on 16 tee box and then just tried to get it in, really. Just wanted to get it in."Day’s brave effort dominated another dramatic afternoon on the links-style layout that saw five different names at the top of the leaderboard during the third round and an assortment of brilliant and bewildering shots.
Masters champion Spieth and his American Ryder Cup teammate Patrick Reed began the day with a one-shot lead but as the sun set into Puget Sound the leaderboard had a very different look.
One of the longest courses ever for a golf major, Chambers Bay was tailor-made for the big-hitting Johnson, who muscled his way to the top with an even-par 70 while Grace, a six-time winner on the European Tour, also had a 70.
“I’m stoked. I can’t wait. Tomorrow is going to be a good one,” Grace said. “This is what we play golf for. It’s a dream to lead a tournament like this, or tying the lead.”Johnson gets a fourth shot at his first major. He was also in position to win the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and the 2011 British Open.
“I’ve been in the situation a few times, so I know how to handle myself,” he said. “I know what it takes to get it done. And tomorrow I just need to go out there and focus one shot at a time. And we’ll see what happens.”
With its picture postcard vistas, Chambers Bay may have an attractive look but it has been widely criticised by golfers and commentators with the attacks growing louder with each day.
Most of the grumbling has been directed at the bumpy and undulating greens, but Spieth proved they can be conquered as he rolled in a 38-foot birdie putt at the second to move two ahead.
The world number two continued to wield a hot putter, draining a 40-footer for birdie at the third to open up a three-shot cushion.
But even the best putter in the game would have his problems with the controversial greens and Spieth’s first wobble came at the fourth when he three-putted from 30 feet for his first bogey.
That was followed by another at the fifth and suddenly Spieth’s three-shot advantage had vanished, leaving him to scramble his way to a 71.
"I didn’t have my best stuff today but still tied for the lead,” Spieth said. “I’m pretty sure I know where it is and how to get it tomorrow and get ready to go.
“I started to really strike the ball well right at the end of the round today and I can take a lot of momentum from that.”Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy carded his best score of the week, but was disappointed with a level-par 70 that he felt should have been at least five strokes better.
The world number one picked up two shots on the front nine, including a 25-footer on the second hole, but squandered several opportunities after the turn as he ran up two bogeys for a four-over total of 214 after three rounds, eight off the lead.
“It took a while to hole one (a putt) there,” McIlroy said after celebrating a 10-foot par putt on the 18th green at a firm and fast-running Chambers Bay. “I missed seven good chances on the back nine, or seven makeable putts anyway.
“It was just nice to see one drop at the last there. I feel like I turned a 65 into a 70 today. Just real disappointed.”